# Guide to Tufts Introductory Physics Courses

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```Guide to Tufts Introductory Physics Courses
There are two sequences of introductory physics courses:
Algebra-based: Physics 1, 2
Calculus-based: Physics 11, 12
It can be difficult to understand the similarities and differences and to figure out
which course is best for you. This brief guide may help.
Comparison of Physics 1 and 11
Physics 1
Mechanics: Kinematics,
Content
Newton’s Laws, Energy,
Momentum, Rotational
Motion, Fluids, Oscillations or
Heat &amp; Temperature
Who takes it? Mainly biological science and
pre-health students, usually
juniors, seniors and post-bacs
High-school algebra,
Math prereq
trigonometry
None
Calculus
Shared lab sections:
Lab
Fall semester,
Offered
Summer sessions I and II
Physics 11
Mechanics: Kinematics,
Newton’s Laws, Energy,
Momentum, Rotational
Motion, Fluids, Oscillations or
Heat &amp; Temperature
Mainly physical science and
engineering students, usually
first- and second-year
Math 11 concurrent
Minimal
6 labs, with reports
Fall and Spring semesters,
Summer session I.
Comparison of Physics 2 and 12
Physics 2
Physics 12
Heat &amp; Temperature or
Heat &amp; Temperature or
Content
Oscillations, Waves, Sound,
Oscillations, Waves, Sound,
Electricity &amp; Magnetism
Light &amp; Optics, Electricity &amp;
Magnetism, Relativity,
Quantum Physics, Atomic &amp;
Nuclear Physics
Mainly physical science and
Who takes it? Mainly biological science and
engineering students, usually
pre-health students, usually
juniors, seniors and post-bacs first- and second-year
Physics
Physics 1 or 11 or equivalent
prereq
High-school algebra,
Math 11 or equivalent,
Math prereq
trigonometry
Math 12 concurrent
None
Extensive
Calculus
Shared lab sections: 6 labs, with reports
Lab
Spring semester,
Fall and Spring semesters,
Offered
Summer session II
Summer session II.
Spring, 2010
FAQs:
1) Are Physics 1 and 2 easier than Physics 11 and 12?
Not necessarily. The mathematical level of Physics 11 is slightly higher than that
of Physics 1, and that of Physics 12 is much higher than that of Physics 2, so the 11/12
sequence can be challenging for students whose math backgrounds are less strong or in
the distant past. On the other hand, even well-prepared first- and second-year students
sometimes struggle in Physics 1 and 2 because they do not yet have the maturity and
study skills of the more experienced students in those classes.
2) Is the lab required?
Yes. Prior to the 2010-2011 academic year you could take the classes without lab,
but now all students in Physics 1, 11, 2, and 12 must take the lab.
3) I’m not in engineering or the physical sciences but I have a strong math
background. Should I take Phys 11/12 instead of Physics 1/2?
It would be fine, but not necessarily better, to take Physics 11 instead of Physics 1.
But take Physics 2 rather than 12. Physics 12 is a more narrowly focused class intended
to prepare students for more advanced work in physical sciences and engineering, with
considerable emphasis on the mathematical and analytical techniques that those more
advanced courses require. Physics 2 covers a much broader range of topics, with greater
emphasis on conceptual understanding, and is better suited for a student who will not go
on to more advanced study in the field.
4) Can I take Physics 2 or 12 without taking 1 or 11 first?
Physics 1 or 11 is a prerequisite for Physics 2 and 12, for very good reasons. Even
though the list of topics may seem very different, the material in Physics 2 and 12 draws
heavily on the ideas and methods developed in Physics 1 and 11. If you have not taken
one of those courses, or had equivalent preparation, you are likely to have trouble.
5) I took AP Physics in high school. Can I skip these classes?
Please see the Bulletin for the rules regarding AP credit and consult your
academic advisor. AP courses vary widely in quality and we have found that simply
having taken one, even with a high grade, is no assurance that the material has been
mastered at the necessary level. In general it’s not advisable to skip ahead unless you
qualify for placement according to the rules in the Bulletin.
6) I’m considering majoring in Physics. Is it OK to wait until the spring
semester to take Physics 11?
If you’re considering a physics major it’s best to complete Physics 12 by the end
of your first year, which means taking Physics 11 in the Fall unless you have advanced
placement. Physics 13, which is a requirement for the major and a prerequisite for many
classes, is offered only in the Fall and should be taken after Physics 12. If you wait until
spring to take Physics 11 it’s still possible to complete the major, but your course choices
will be more limited.
7) I’m still confused, and so is my advisor. Now what?
Call the Physics Department office at ext. 73029 and ask to speak with a faculty
member about your individual situation.
Spring, 2010
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